When Flying Requires a Shoehorn

At six feet, five inches, Tom is a big man and when flying, he likes the aisle. Lately, the airlines don’t seem to care.

He selected his preferred seat when booking online. However, when he arrived at the self-check-in kiosk, he had a middle seat. An airline employee told him his online selections “…was only a “seat request” and not a “seat selection” and did not have to be honored. “

What’s the deal? Why bother asking for a seat request if it’s going to be ignored? What tips and tactics can he use to insure his wide shoulders don’t rub up against two other people?

That’s what Tom wants to know, after the jump…


Tom writes:

“I went to Phoenix from DC (BWI Airport) to see friends this weekend. I booked my tix through Orbitz.

I was able to select my seat on my flight out during purchase, which was on US Air (service provided by America West. US Air recently bought out AW)

I was not allowed to select a seat for my return trip on AW (no affiliation to US Air was mentioned on my itinerary, unlike my outbound flight). I assume this was due to complications not yet worked out from to the merger.

I got to BWI just over an hour before my flight out. I checked in at the self-serve kiosk. My seat was not as selected, it was a ‘middle seat’ (I am 6’5 and have broad shoulders. My most comfortable ride in coach is in an aisle seat). I tried to change my seat only to find that there were only 3 open seats on the plane (all middles). When I inquired about my booked seat, I was told that my seat selection online was only a “seat request” and not a “seat selection” and did not have to be honored. So I sucked it up and sat in the crappy seat on the way out. My questions are: How did all the seats get taken?; Why was my seat selection not honored?; How in the world could all but 3 seats be unconfirmed a full hour before the flight?

On my flight back from PHX (on AW), I checked-in online roughly 18 hours in advance and printed my boarding pass. I was assigned a window seat, without an option to change it online. I was at the airport at PHX a full 2 hours before my scheduled flight. I went to the boarding gate and was informed that there were no aisle seats remaining. Again, how could there be no aisle seats unconfirmed a full 2 hours before the flight?

Can you (or a commenter) explain the seat assignment procedures and how to maneuver through them? Or am I just ignorant that people are far more proactive than me when booking a flight and confirming their seats. If that is the case, how do I become more proactive?

Many thanks in advance.”